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NFL QB Club 2002
Review By:  Jared Black
Developer:   Acclaim
Publisher:   Acclaim
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Sports
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   10-25-01

Acclaim’s long-running football series, despite some degree of success, has always been dwarfed (both in sales and quality) by EA’s juggernaut Madden series. The last hardware generation saw Acclaim gain some ground on EA, as the QB Club series did pretty well on the Nintendo 64. With a new hardware generation here with the PS2, Acclaim has another fresh opportunity to catch EA. Thus far, they haven’t made much progress. In almost every facet of the game, NFL QB Club 2002 is nothing more than "Madden-lite".

You’ll find all the standard modes here, including Exhibition, Practice, Season, Simulation, and Playoffs. All of these are self-explanatory with the possible exception of the Simulation mode, and found in other football games. Simulation allows the player to set up various parameters and recreate different game situations. The one trump card that this series has always held over the Madden series is the exclusive Quarterback Challenge mode, and it makes a triumphant return this year. This mode does a good job of recreating the QB Challenge held every off-season, as it allows you to participate in all four events featured in the real thing.

Unfortunately, NFL QB Club 2002 is missing the one thing that makes Madden so great: the Franchise mode. For any true football fan, this game mode has become an essential part of every football game. Admittedly, after playing several seasons of Madden it was tough going back to being limited to only one year. Additionally, the game lacks several other features that the competition has, such as being able to create your own team from scratch. While the QB Challenge is a fun and interesting diversion, in no way does it make up for the lack of features (relative to the competition) found here.

This is extended to the gameplay itself, as there are severe problems found with several areas. First we have the AI, which is competent but certainly not worthy of praise. Offensively, it’s far too easy to score and move the ball no matter the difficulty level. Computer-controlled defensive backs will often be out of position on even the simplest of routes to cover, and a very effective turbo option (pressing X) will allow even the slowest of running backs to make big gains by bumping it outside. Worse still, the offensive linemen actually mimic the moves of the running back and block accordingly. As a result, zigzagging the running back is often the most effective way to set up your downfield blocking, and once that's mastered the player will have no problem breaking huge gains. That’s totally unrealistic (how do your lineman see you suddenly reverse direction behind them), and should’ve died out at the end of the 16-bit era. On the whole, the entire gameplay experience just screams "16-bit".

Control-wise, QB Club feels great and in some ways actually surpasses Madden. This game uses the "NFL2K-style" feel, where your players can stop on a dime and will instantly respond to any command you give them. This is in sharp contrast to Madden, where real physics are incorporated into the gameplay resulting in realistic cutbacks and response times. Each has it’s proponents, but neither one is really better than the other. NFL QB Club 2002 executes this style well, so if you’re a fan of Sega’s NFL2K this one may appeal to you.

Graphically, QB Club just has a very poor look overall. While stadiums are rendered with accurate detail, they’re missing some of the extras found in the Madden series such as an abundance of sideline items. The animation is both good and bad. While it’s good that there are a lot of different player animations, it’s bad that they rarely transition that well. As a result, players move in a very robotic and totally unreal fashion from one animation to the next. That’s not the only thing plaguing the players’ appearance however, as the player models are almost laughable. Proportioning is way off on a number of models, with tiny players featuring huge arms and the jersey numbers being out of whack (too long and skinny) with the rest of the body. About the only good trait here are the faces, as over 350 players’ faces were imaged into the game and the emotion they show often looks pretty good. Throw in a jittery framerate (don’t play in heavy snow!) and a very washed-out appearance however, and you’re left with a game that looks more like a souped-up PSone game than a PS2 title.

The sound is also a throwback to the good old SNES days. Most of the sound effects are somewhat over the top, with a more arcade feel than a real-life feel. The crowd is average…little more than a drone in the background. Really the only highlight in this area is the commentary of the team of Kevin Harlan and Bill Maas. This "C-team" from FOX actually does a better job in many ways than Madden and Summerall do. Their commentary is witty, often insightful, and just in general gives off more personality than the competition. While it also has it’s fair share of problems (sound bites will often cut off unexpectedly and they sometimes call the action wrong), they do a much better job overall with the commentary. Then again, maybe they just seem more tolerable to me because they handle most of the Carolina Panthers’ games in my area.

HIGHS:

  • Commentary, while not excellent, is much better than in that "other" football game.
  • Exclusive QB Challenge mode is an enjoyable mini-game.
  • Provides an alternative to Madden’s realistic control.

LOWS:

  • Although the graphics are solid enough, they lack polish and look pretty ugly when compared to other PS2 titles.
  • The sound effects are far from realistic and even sound terrible when compared to arcade football titles like Blitz.
  • Lack of a franchise mode severely hurts replay value.

FINAL VERDICT:

Although NFL QB Club 2002 offers up a playable and sometimes enjoyable experience, in the end it isn’t even worthy of holding John Madden’s jockstrap (not that anyone would want to…). The only real advantage this game offers over Madden is the user-friendly (arcade-like) control scheme, but even so NFL2K2 has almost the same setup and will be far superior to this game on every level. My advice to Acclaim is to pour some serious effort into overhauling this once-beloved series and pull it kicking and screaming out of the 16-bit era.

Overall Score: 4.6

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